I would rather have her back there (playing catcher) than anybody else. —Utah Utes pitcher Brock Duke
SALT LAKE CITY — University of Utah athletes Brock and Susan Duke know all about gems. They're surrounded by them.
Besides a wedding ring, the Dukes spend a lot of time on baseball and softball diamonds. In their third year of marriage, they've formed an unusual battery, of sorts, for the Utes. Brock is a junior pitcher for the baseball team and Susan is a freshman catcher for the softball squad.
"I wouldn't say we fully understand how unique it is," Brock said. "But I think we're doing our best to have fun with it and to take advantage of it."
However, it's definitely a balancing act for the couple. They're going through the overlapping seasons for the first time.
"It's not too much different on the weekends, but it's during the week when she has practice and I have practice that our schedules don't line up," Brock said. "That's when it gets really hectic, long days. Their day starts early, ours goes late. So it's a long day."
Although things are different than the first two years when Susan wasn't playing softball and would accompany Brock on some baseball trips, she insists the new situation has improved their marriage.
"It's crazy how much better it is just because I understand now like all the stuff that he went through," Susan said while noting the challenges of being an intercollegiate student-athlete. "So it's nice to finally understand — on the exact same level — the pressure and everything. Time management is crazy."
As such, Susan added, it makes the time they spend together even better.
"She's had a lot of insight into the things that I've had to go through and I know what she's going through," Brock said. "So we've been able to kind of help each other along."
The Spanish Fork High graduates have known each other for a long time, going back to their childhood in Salem. They've played co-ed softball together and even spent time as baseball teammates back in the day.
As a married couple, Brock and Susan acknowledged that they talk about baseball and softball a lot.
"It's our life," she said.
The Dukes work hard at it — together.
Brock noted that he has thrown some drills to Susan to help her with catching.
"She can handle the fast stuff," he said. "She can't handle the breaking stuff because it's a little different than when a softball moves."
Susan agrees, explaining that it's the total opposite of what she's used to catching.
Even so, there are some benefits to working with her husband.
"Definitely. It helps with like blocking and stuff," Susan said. "If I can block his fastball then I can block any girl's fastball."
Despite the differences in their sports, she said the duo "make a good team no matter what."
If each could pick the perfect battery mate, they would choose one another.
"I would rather have her back there than anybody else," Brock said.
Susan expressed a similar feeling.
"I trust him more than anyone else," she said. "So definitely."
Their shared love of the game led to Susan's return to competitive softball after time away. She realized she really missed it and wanted to get back out there and play. Brock was supportive and encouraged her to go for it. Although school was starting, Susan contacted Utah softball coach Amy Hogue and asked if there was an opening.
The Utes found room for the three-time first-team all-state honoree, who also played competitive club ball.
"I was trying to do everything I could to help her out," Brock said. "She's got friends on the team up here, so that was fun for her to be able to play with them. It's been a lot of fun for us."
Entering this weekend's Pac-12 games, Brock was leading Utah's pitching staff with 66 strikeouts. Susan, meanwhile, was batting .375.
When asked about which diamonds they prefer — the playing fields or wedding jewelry — Brock emphasized that he liked them all.
Susan did too, although she added a twist when it came to ranking her diamonds.
"I'll keep the one on my finger," Susan said while smiling at her husband. "But I prefer the baseball diamond over my wedding ring."3 comments on this story
There are diamonds, and then there are diamonds.
Just ask the Dukes.